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Homage

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Album Review

Billy Taylor's GRP release is comprised of two of the pianist's suites (which are actually a series of songs), along with a pair of shorter pieces. "Homage" pays tribute to some of Taylor's earlier heroes, including violinists Eddie South and Stuff Smith, bassists Slam Stewart and Oscar Pettiford, drummers Sid Catlett and Jo Jones, and pianist Art Tatum. None of those musicians are actually imitated, but the three-part work does feature excellent interplay between Taylor's trio (with bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Steve Johns) and the Turtle Island String Quartet. One misses the strings a bit during the ten-part "Step Into My Dream," an episodic work that portrays a walk through Harlem and is designed to be performed in conjunction with the David Parsons Dance Company. Most of the music is straight-ahead in a boppish vein, although there is a stride piece, a calypso, a free-form section and even a rap. Taylor plays quite well throughout the program, concluding the set with a jazz waltz and an encore ("One for Fun") with Turtle Island. Although not essential, there are enough bright moments on the stimulating set to make this a recommended release.

Biography

Born: July 24, 1921 in Greenville, NC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Billy Taylor was such an articulate spokesman for jazz, and his profiles on CBS' Sunday Morning television program (where he was a regular beginning in 1981) were so successful at introducing jazz to a wider audience, that sometimes one could forget what a talented pianist he was for over half a century. While not an innovator, Taylor was flexible enough to play swing, bop, and more advanced styles while always retaining his own musical personality. After graduating from Virginia State College in...
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Homage, Billy Taylor
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